Sunday, April 24, 2016

Vanishing Inwards: Exploring Not-Existence by Ria Shah


Typically in the mornings, as the beep of the microwave rings loud and black tea steams from my mug, I ponder over what I call not-existence. One might ask: Why revolve around the lack of existence instead of the current state of being inside it? In response, I strive to convey the satisfaction and gratification that I weave into the background of every situation I encounter, simply through feeling the reality of not-existence, the purposeful dwelling on the lack of being. A self, stripped of all decorations, is what we are left to tangibly poke and prod at. “Not-existence” is not an original concept of mine; it has thrived in the context of an identity that grew powerful from embracing its whole self and promoting others to do so.

When in The Book Alan Watts explains the taboo behind knowing who you are in the form of a book he wishes to hand down to his own children. “What, then, would be The Book which fathers might slip to their sons and mothers to their daughters without ever admitting it openly?” He begins his argument by indulging in awe: “Wonder, and its expression in poetry and the arts, are among the most important things which seem to distinguish men from other animals and intelligent and sensitive people from morons” (1). Yet in society, the arts are disregarded as the “less” successful, the “less” professional and mostly as the “less” meaningful. This is a pure example of the micro-layers we contain in ourselves—the surface being a mirror of what we want people to see while the truth remains hidden in a dark dungeon, never to see daylight—but it plays out on a larger scale called human civilization. We push our brothers, sisters, daughters and sons to suit their interests to a particular, already-created subject, when the real issue is whether or not society even has the capability, or “subjects” as we have labeled them, to withstand the potential every new human possesses. By explaining the importance of wonder, Watts pushes his readers to examine their own sense of wonder, secretly pushing them into a state of not-existence. The introspective nature of peeling back our layers of conformity is in essence what happens in the first few seconds of wondering about one’s true self. Yet Watts does not stop here—explaining the infinite characteristics of a single person’s life is the key to where not-existence truly manifests. Watts states, “This feeling of being lonely and very temporary visitors in the universe is in flat contradiction to everything known about man (and all other living organisms) in the sciences. We do not 'come into' this world; we come out of it, as leaves from a tree” (8).

Upon realizing that not only are we creatures born to wonder and constantly ask “Why?” but that we are also trapped in a single and unified flow of energy, one is compelled to isolate her self. Not-existence starts with cutting out all of the extremities surrounding our deep-most desires, feelings, beliefs and thought-processes—everything we are before we follow society’s rules and, as they say, “be polite.” It then directs the thinker to break the mold even further by contrasting a life without these core principles that we call the “self” among the tangible existence of the current life. This is a task hard to do without stepping outside the “life” and looking down as a bird would over a forest. For example, imagine that one feels one is, at the core, passionate about music but pursuing an education in business to appease the qualms associated with the “Arts.” This being would then go onto realize their true self by focusing on what life would consist of if their principle of “passion for music” was suddenly ripped from existence as a potential pass-time activity—how would you respond? This pattern of contrasting the in-existence of reality with our current state, where we push ourselves into that locked dark dungeon, is what creates an important responsibility, and most importantly, an awareness to follow our inner-most self. Through reading Watts I have found my method of not-existence most clearly explained: creating souls able to walk our planet in their own two shoes, not the ones society tries to force on our souls (pun intended).
Though Watts uses a book containing taboo information as a vehicle in which to deliver such thoughts to his reader, not-existence similarly lies at the base of Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard’s enforcement of the power and necessity of altruism. His concept of altruism is best explained in his TED Talk, “The Habits of Happiness.” He has advocated human’s need to simply be a more altruistic society—before we grow too economically greedy and power corrupts even the most sensibly run governments.When a self practices meditating on the lack of having certain parts of themselves—even as far as material objects go (for example, being a part of a loving family)—that self inevitably plunges into protecting the deepest and most true pieces of their identity. My own self—which not-existence has helped to find yet still lies under piles of conformed statements and beliefs stolen from popular thought—has internalized new concepts that stem directly from the awareness that not-existence provides. Vedic secrets and the ancient South Asian Upanishad's underlying revelation about the duality of the self are a few of the many ancestral teachings I have been curious to look into, furthering my pursuit of not-existence and its effects. My actions can no more be impulsive; thought and “the self” are two variables placed into every calculation of whether or not to act or be still.

As a writer, I am in a constant drought of inspiration. The thirst is excruciatingly painful—not until I come across the right source of wonder am I able to fluidly write. If I do not actively hunt for the emotions and thoughts that constrict the back of my throat and swell my eye beds, then I am usually left staring blankly at an empty word document for hours, if not days. Yet the “not-existence formed self” is the one who comes out to bat when writing occurs for me in this way. If I am impulsively writing—that is, when my intentions lay somewhere other than exfoliating the raw nature of my beliefs, aspirations, thoughts and desires—then it no longer becomes my own writing but instead one tarnished by society’s residue.
It is not until we feel what existence would be like without our self, or even parts of our self, that we can truly understand the gift we are as human souls. Not-existence is no feat or secret ingredient to help one achieve massive wealth. It is rather a stumbled-upon term for characterizing the way in which my own identity cleanses itself. As the Bhagavad Gita puts it, "All things are unmanifested in their beginning, manifested in their medium stage and unmanifested in their end. What is there in this to grieve over?" Reverberations of this idea are already shaking the world; no one recipe exists to rip off that part of you that’s not actually you… but I sure do hope we can find it sooner than later.

Works Cited
Watts, Alan. “Chapter 1: Inside Information.” The Book on the Taboo of Knowing Who You Are. 1-2. Print.

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